German longswords revisited. Late-medieval south-German sword-makers as brokers of urban martial culture

Abstract: This poster presents a broad-based reconsideration of the available archaeological and archival evidence for sword production in southern Germany in the late 14th and early 15th century. Particular focus is put on physical and dynamic dimensions of preserved swords. This data is then discussed in the wider context and enables proposing important insights on period’s socio-cultural realities, especially the process of emancipation of towns and development of urban martial culture.

Late-medieval and early-modern martial culture can be aptly characterised as the „culture of the sword” (Tlusty, 2016). Although the weaponry in use at the time, both in knightly and urban contexts, was demonstrably more diverse, the sword still held a prominent place in symbolic and pragamtic domains. Symbolically, it was a crucial nexus within period’s conceptualisations of chivalry, masculinity, and power. Pragmatically, in turn, it was still widely used in actual combat, redesigned and improved (Oakeshott, 1996), and considered a central weapon in the curricula of sword-fighting fraternities throughout the Holy Roman Empire and beyond (e.g. Dupuis, 2014; Jaquet, 2015; Gevaert & Van Noort, 2016). Hence, it should be expected that sword-makers were prominent, even if silent, actors during the transitional period when the military monopoly of knighthood was gradually uprooted by new models based on urban infantry. The proposed poster explores this hypothesis in greater depth on the basis of extensive source review backed up with statistical analyses.

Watch the video of the presentation:

Referenced works:

Dupuis, O. (2014). Organization and Regulation of Fencing in the Realm of France in the Renaissance. Acta Periodica Duellatorum, 2, 233–254.

Gevaert, B., & van Noort, R. (2016). Evolution of Martial Tradition in the Low Countries: Fencing Guilds and Treatises. In D. Jaquet, K. Verelst & T. Dawson (eds.), Late Medieval and Early Modern Fight Books (pp. 376-409). Leiden-Boston.

Jaquet, D. (2015). Fighting in the Fightschools late XVth, early XVIth century. Acta Periodica Duellatorum, 3(2), 47–66.

Oakeshott, R. E. (1996). The Archaeology of Weapons: Arms and Armor from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry. Monaloa-New York.

Tlusty, B.A. (2016). Martial Identity and the Culture of the Sword in Early Modern Germany. In D. Jaquet, K. Verelst & T. Dawson (eds.), Late Medieval and Early Modern Fight Books (pp. 547-570). Leiden-Boston.

Acknowledgement: This poster was presented in the panel: Weapons: Production, trade, and exchange, during the conference Martial Culture in European Towns (1350-1550), at the University of Bern (11-13 November, 2021)

Cite this article as: Maciej Talaga, "German longswords revisited. Late-medieval south-German sword-makers as brokers of urban martial culture," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 12/11/2021,

Published by

Maciej Talaga

Maciej Talaga received his MA in archaeology (University of Warsaw) in 2012 and joined the ‘Nature-Culture’ PhD programme at the Faculty ‘Artes Liberales’ in 2018. For the last decade his research interests have revolved around pre-modern European martial traditions, with particular focus on late-medieval Central Europe and the so-called ‘German school of fighting’ (Kunst des Fechtens). Having initially approached the topic from purely archaeological perspective – i.e. conducting studies on preserved medieval weaponry as reflections of martial skills – and influenced by his over a decade-long cooperation with the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts ARMA-PL, he gradually adopted a performative approach combining text- and artefact-based studies with practical experimentation. More recently, inspired by the works of Ben Spatz (practice-as-research) and James J. Gibson (ecological psychology), he became interested in the methodological and theoretical underpinnings of research performed on historical sources recording somatic skills. Hence, his doctoral thesis project focuses on developing a methodical framework for practical reconstruction of the martial arts system contained in the anonymous manuscript HS 3227a (Germany, ca. 1390). Apart from being a PhD student, Maciej is a translator, a martial arts practitioner, and a certified fencing instructor running his own salle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search